The University of Sydney

I have contributed expertise and guidance to the Sustainability Strategy and its implementation by developing commitments, targets and initiatives as well as planning and executing initiatives linked to the strategy’s aims. I have gone above and beyond my role description to not only bring in sustainable infrastructure and opportunities but also to educate and inspire our University community. Initially employed as the University’s Energy and Waste Manager, I’ve taken on a number of extra duties related to the University of Sydney’s Sustainability Strategy 2020 as part of the University Infrastructure team – coordinating other focus areas of the strategy including water and liaising with Procurement.

I make a point of bringing colleagues along on the journey of sustainability by providing mentoring and education. For example, as a part of the Power Partnership Agreement (PPA) for 100% renewable electricity provision to the University, I built knowledge and advised internal parties involved around the more technical aspects of the PPA and its components. This has assisted different areas in being able to participate fully in the tendering process as well as being able to understand the Sustainability Strategy initiative beyond the financial and risk aspects. As part of the contract negotiations, I reached out to small businesses, residences and colleges not under the University’s purview to offer the University’s buying power to negotiate discounted rates, allowing them to also access 100% renewable electricity provision.

>  A closer look

I began my role as Energy and Waste Manager in the University Infrastructure in July 2019 just as the University commenced the development of a new Sustainability Strategy. Coming from a corporate background, I not only learned how to navigate the University very quickly, but I also became an integral part of the Sustainability Strategy development team and joined the strategy’s Advisory Group, leading key working groups bringing both academic and professional staff and students together. I also worked closely with the strategy development team to produce targets and initiatives associated with energy, emissions and waste – priority areas of the strategy.

Since joining the University, I’ve made a very thorough effort to understand how the University works, not only operationally, but also through its research and education. I work very collegially across the University and have fostered operational links with key faculties, central areas and multi-disciplinary institutions. I am the only professional staff member Co-Chairing a research group looking at Smart Sustainable Buildings as part of the University Nanosciences Hub. In particular, I’ve made a point of building relationships that brings the sustainability objectives of both Central Operations Services (COS) and University Infrastructure (UI) together. These two areas act separately but I have worked hard to bring together colleagues to work together and use sustainability as a shared interest.

I’m a truly collaborative colleague who often goes above and beyond my role to bring success to the Sustainability Strategy. My activities and contributions have made a significant and sustained impression on not just the outcomes of the Sustainability Strategy but the team implementing the initiatives linked to it and colleagues around the University and in the ACTS network.

>  Impact and benefits

Partnerships to action sustainability

I’ve worked to forge strong linkages and partnerships which have contributed heavily to building trust and action in the Sustainability Strategy.

  • Professor Ali Abbas and his team in the Waste Transportation Research Hub (WTRH): Exploring how Professor Abbas’s work such as his recycled concrete and a research project to create a durable recycled soft plastics type of asphalt which could be used to resurface campus roads. My relationship with the WTRH embodies the Living Lab model outlined in the Sustainability Strategy by using research to improve the sustainability of the University’s operations. Professor Abbas and I work closely together to action Circular Economy activities which are at the core of the University’s Sustainability Strategy.
  • I am the only professional staff representative on the multidisciplinary NanoSciences Hub Smart Sustainable Buildings Group. I provide advice and work with academics in the group to understand the applications of their research in University operations or as part of student projects.
  • Developing a roadmap to reach the Sustainability Strategy goal of becoming plastic-free across its campuses: I demonstrated excellence, going above and beyond in my capacity as chair of the Campus Partners Community of Practice – Single-Use Plastic Free Campusesstream to steward the development of the first draft of a roadmap for the University to reach its targets with regards to reducing the University’s reliance on single-use plastic. I supported the members of the group to have input, given they were facing immense pressure to pivot to online working and learning and teaching due to the announcement of NSW public health orders in response to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney. This Community of Practice will form the basis for an ongoing Campus Partners group.
  • I started the initial work in building Living Lab projects, showing where research and operational activities intersect and helped build this into the Sustainability Strategy.
  • I worked with colleagues in COS to develop a successful grant application to the NSW Environmental Protection Agency. The grant enabled the purchase of a biodigester, a circular economy-based composter that will recycle organic waste from the Camperdown/Darlington campus. Reducing organics waste to landfill is a significant component of the Sustainability Strategy’s overall waste target of zero waste to landfill by 2030.
  • I spearheaded the project which enabled Sydney to become the first university chosen to participate in the EPA-funded Bin Trim program, which assists enterprises in reducing waste and increasing recycling. As part of this initiative, we have piloted two new recycling streams, recycling polystyrene and a new pallet collection service. By end-2021, the University reused or recycled 151 pallets that were used in deliveries to our campuses, saving 4.1 tonnes from landfill and sent 6 cubic meters of polystyrene for recycling

I supported the team to create a sustainable solution to disposing of non-compliant building cladding. The University was able to contribute to the circular economy by recycling cladding that has been removed from some of our buildings, in line with amended Government requirements. This cladding was separated into raw materials and returns to the economy through other manufacturing materials. By the end of the program, we estimate more than 15,000m2 of cladding will be recycled.

>  Leadership and engagement

Education, mentorship and engagement

I enjoy mentoring, outreach or engagement and actively seek opportunities to share sustainability learning. This work is outside of my role description, but I take the time to set up projects that students would find interested and mentor them to success.

  • I have a proven track record of mentoring students in multidisciplinary units across the undergraduate and postgraduate curricula. I have mentored Dalyell Scholar students in an engineering unit, ENGD1000 – Building a Sustainable World. Several student groups worked through a Love Food, Hate Wastea key initiative for reducing food waste at the University.
  • I’ve also mentored a student in the Master of Sustainability. The student worked with my COS and UI colleagues to start redeveloping the Sustainable Transport and Mobility Plan (STAMP) to reflect the aims of the Sustainability Strategy. The revision of the STAMP is an initiative of the Sustainability Strategy under Strategy 13.

Providing educational tours of the biodigester as part of the strategy’s engagement operations. I make myself available for tour groups to walk them through the process and highlight the connection of the impact individuals can make by using the correct waste stream. This fosters sustainable behavioural change across our community and provides context and understanding as to why we have set up specific sustainability projects.

>  Wider societal impact

My contribution to sustainability contributes to a more sustainable future, not just for the University of Sydney but the global community through the reduction of waste and energy.

Some notable contributions include:

  • The five-year contract with Red Energy, backed by the mighty Snowy Hydro, to source 100 percent of its electricity in NSW from renewable sources. Once the contract begins, the University’s activities will be powered by solar energy.  The positive impact will be in excess of removing 31,200 cars from the road.
  • The biodigester project diverts up to 500 kilograms of waste from landfill every day, transforming products such as coffee grounds, tea bags, food waste and into compost to be used on campus. The compost lowers the University’s greenhouse gases output and increases our biodiversity on campus through the strengthing of the gardens

Mentoring students in sustainability inspires a generation of future leaders in the field.